There’s no shortage of “bad” words out there.
Some, we become slightly callused to, while others seem to make our ears perk up regardless how many times we hear them.
We often avoid using such words and phrases because of that awful gut feeling of embarrassment we feel when we get that “I can’t believe you just said that” look from someone in our presence.
Of course your environment plays a huge role when it comes to which words are and aren’t acceptable. I mean, I work in a newsroom, which I must say, has a slightly different language standard than when I worked teaching middle school. At least for the teacher, that is.
Among Christians that standard is often even more strict than a middle school classroom. Most of the time that’s for the best, but there is one phrase a lot of Christians seem to avoid like the plague even when it’s the most appropriate thing to say.
I don’t know.
We hate that combo of words. I mean, we’re supposed to have all the answers, right? We’re the ones who are supposed to be in “the know.” We’re supposed to be at all times “set for the defense of the gospel.”
So stringing those three words together can sometimes seem like a worse alternative than dropping an F bomb.
Recently I’ve been wrestling with a handful of really difficult topics and I’ve found this phrase hard to even allow myself to think. I want so badly to have all the answers, to be able to explain and justify my beliefs, that giving in and dropping that phrase seems almost unbearable.
Truth be told, however, it’s often the most accurate statement, and one I can think of three good reasons why we need to quit being so afraid to use.
1. It’s our shortcoming, not the shortcoming of God or the Bible.
Just because I don’t have the answer, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means I haven’t laid my hands on it or wrapped my mind around it.
I think one of the devil’s greatest lies is to get Christians to start to feel like they are the source of all the world’s answers, rather than a tool used for searching and learning from the source itself.
Admitting we don’t know something, that we don’t have an answer, is humbling, but it’s that good kind of humbling, the kind that acknowledges our need of God.
2. There are somethings we just aren’t ever going to know.
It cracks me up when I hear people demand for scientific evidence for some of the Bible’s miracles. Seriously, isn’t that the whole point of miracles? They don’t make sense. They can’t be fully explained and honestly, you should sound a little bit crazy when you describe them. That’s what makes it a good miracle.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have reasons or scientific and historic evidence for our beliefs, but there is, and I think always should be, some level of faith in accepting them.
Faith is a good, and sometimes I think we don’t embrace it enough.
3. It doesn’t necessarily end the conversation.
Telling a person with a really tough question, “I don’t know,” doesn’t mean you have to give up searching. It doesn’t mean you can’t revisit the topic at a future date and it will likely allow that door for future conversation to open a lot smoother than cramming some half-witted and half-efforted answer down that person’s throat. (Since this is about bad words, I’ll refrain from using my grandfather’s term for such a half-effort.)
It’s been my experience that people genuinely seeking answers aren’t put off when you tell them you have none to offer. In fact, sometimes I think it’s comforting to them. Sometimes I think it’s good to let people know, just because we’re saved, doesn’t mean we don’t ever struggle for answers just like they do. I think showing that commonality gives you something to build future conversations on and gives that person more confidence in the answers you do have.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t always be prepared with an answer for our faith, but there’s a big difference in being prepared with an answer and simply pretending to have one.
Rather than pretend, I think it’s best if we’re prepared to utter those three “bad” words.